Every orthodontic treatment option including aligners comes with different pros and cons, conveniences and challenges. Choosing the right option for you is about considering your specific treatment needs and your daily lifestyle.
If you are considering clear aligner therapy (CAT) , you should think about what your daily habits look like. While clear aligners come with many conveniences, such as ease of maintaining good oral hygiene and less visibility compared to traditional metal braces, they also come with their own responsibilities and challenges. If you have clear aligners, you must remove them in order to eat or drink anything (except for water). This requires a certain level of planning and responsibility, as your aligners must be worn for at least 20 hours per day in order to maintain effective, timely treatment.
As you prepare for this orthodontic journey, it is imperative to evaluate your lifestyle and make a game plan as to how you will maintain your oral and orthodontic health. This may require you to implement stricter meal schedule or food preparation. While this may pose an additional challenge or responsibility, with the right planning you can make clear aligners work for you. If you’re wondering how aligners will fit into your own life, take a look at this guide to daily life with clear aligners.
Stock Up on Clear Aligner Care Essentials
The first step in your clear aligner plan should be making sure you have all of the necessary tools and hygiene products. By preparing for your new daily routine in a proactive way, you will set yourself up for success.
Your orthodontist will be able to give you specific hygiene instruction and recommendations based on your personal needs and clear aligner treatment. Additionally, there are some general products that you’ll definitely want to have.
Clear Aligner Sealer
When you first put your aligners in, they may not fit securely because your teeth have not yet shifted into the position of that specific tray. Seaters can be used to close any air gaps between your teeth and your aligners. You should gently chew on them once your aligners are in to help your teeth fit as closely into the trays as possible. At Porth, our favorite clear aligner seater to recommend is Clenchy. Dr. Rooz recommends 8 cycles of 5 minutes per day using this small rubber stick to ease tender teeth and move them into place.
When you are out and about during the day, it is very important to keep a case for your clear aligners with you at all times. This will help prevent against damage or even loss when you eat at work, school, or a restaurant. As long as your aligner case is clean and durable, you can choose whichever brand you want.
The best aligner case is the one that prevents you from losing it. Consider choosing a bright color that stands out. Be sure to disinfect and dry your case frequently to ensure that your aligners are clean when you put them back in.
Soaks and Cleaning Solution
When you remove your aligners to eat meals at home, you’ve got the perfect opportunity to leave them to soak in a disinfecting cleaning solution. It is important to brush your teeth and aligners every time you remove your aligners to eat, but soaking your aligners once a day will give them a thorough cleaning and prevent strange smells or mold growth. Don’t use hot water on your aligners, as this can alter their shape.
We also recommend cold water with a splash of antibacterial dish soap for the daily cleaning of your aligners. At Porth, one of our favorite alternative soaking solutions is Steraligner. It’s easy to use and does not require dissolving or mixing. Just pour, add water, soak, and go! Some of our patients used over the counter denture tablets cleaners. The tip is that you should not use hot water if you end up using these products. Denture cleaning tablets could also be too strong on your aligners depending what type of aligners are you using.
Toothbrush for Your Clear Aligners
Use your toothbrush to remove any food and plaque from your trays. You don’t need toothpaste every time. A good brush and rinse of your aligners can go a long way! Alternatively, you could buy a toothbrush to be used to specifically clean your clear aligners. At Porth, we really like the brushes at Quip. We also recommend the Oral-B Ortho Essentials kit, which includes different brush heads that you can switch out for different purposes.
Aligner Repair Kit
Even if you take great care of your clear aligners, damage is always a possibility. If anything serious, such as cracks or warping occurs, we recommend that you contact your orthodontist right away. However, some small issues can be addressed at home with your own aligner repair kit. You should pick up a tiny pair of sharp scissors, such as these cuticle scissors, and a nail file to be used only on your aligners. If the edges of your clear aligners fray and become sharp, clip them with the tiny scissors and file the new edge down so that it is smooth again. If you are not sure what you are doing snap a photo of your damaged aligners and share it with your orthodontist for instructions on how to fix it.
The biggest adjustment that patients with clear aligners typically need to make is to their eating schedule. Because they must be removed before eating or drinking anything except water, and teeth must be thoroughly brushed before putting the aligners back in, meals and snacks usually need to be planned in advance.
Many of us often find ourselves eating breakfast on the go as we head to school or work in the morning, but eating in the car is a less desirable option for aligner patients. This is because you need the chance to brush (and, ideally, floss) your teeth right after every meal to ensure that your teeth are clean and your aligners are in your mouth for the maximum amount of time per day. Especially at the beginning, it’s easiest to conduct the whole routine at home. This is the kind of small tweak to your daily routine you may notice in the early days of orthodontic care.
To save time in the morning, try a breakfast food you can prep the night before, like overnight oats! Since oatmeal is soft, you won’t have to worry about too many food particles getting stuck in your teeth, and it’ a good option for those tender teeth as they start shifting.
Lunch and Snacks
Eating during the day can be a little more tricky, especially since most of us don’t get the chance to come home from school or work for lunch. If this is the case for you, be sure to pack your clear aligner case and a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss with you wherever you go! Remove your aligners before you eat anything except plain water, and thoroughly clean your teeth before putting your aligners back in. Consider keeping a clear aligner seater on you at all times so when you place the aligners back in, you can ensure a snug fit.
Since you probably won’t be able to clean your teeth as thoroughly at work as you would be able to at home, consider opting for foods that are less likely to stain your aligners. We also recommend foods that you can cut up and eat rather than foods you have to bite into, as you will be less likely to get food particles lodged between your teeth. Additionally, your teeth are often sore during the ortho treatment process, so this recommendation helps accommodate that as well.
If you’re eating dinner at home, you’ve got a great opportunity to soak your aligners in their cleaning solution during your meal. This is also a great time to indulge in some of the tougher foods (if your teeth are not sore) as you will have more time and space to thoroughly clean and floss your teeth before you put your aligners back in.
If you are eating out at a restaurant for dinner, the same guidelines about lunch apply. Bring your travel case and oral hygiene kit, and consider ordering foods that will be less likely to stain your aligners or get stuck between your teeth.
“I felt like I was constantly on the go, in crowded spaces, and had to eat then run in a short time frame, many times. I got really efficient at working the aligners into my lifestyle and was able to put my head down and quickly pop them out without anyone even noticing (or caring). Truth is, we make it weirder than anyone else feels about it. “Clear aligner tips from a Porth patient
At the end of the day, be sure to sleep with your clear aligners in so that you can stay on track for your alignment goals. If you have any questions about your clear aligner therapy or want to learn more about this orthodontic treatment option, contact us today!